More and more people are turning to the ancient practice of meditation for cultivating clarity, peace, and purpose in their lives. While meditation is simple to practice, for some it is anything but easy. Just like having an entrepreneurial mindset is key to success in one’s career, having the right meditation mindset is crucial for developing a worthwhile spiritual practice that will lead you to your life’s purpose.
Here are seven steps for setting yourself up for a successful meditation practice and jump-starting a life full of purpose and clarity.
1. Ground Your Practice in the Physical
Meditation should be grounded in a proper lifestyle. Think of the way you’re living as being a foundation for your meditation practice. For your practice to fully support you, you must also support your practice. It’s not necessary to live at an ashram and renounce all things amazing in life, and yet it is important that you be mindful of what—and whom—you are allowing into your space, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. A clean diet, emotional intelligence, and understanding that your perception of experiences creates your reality opens a clear channel for energy and information to flow freely.
If you live a chaotic life full of rushing from one thing to the next without being conscious and grounded in your thoughts, words, and actions, your meditation will also feel like a chaotic swirling of sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts. The majority of today’s western civilization struggles tremendously with slowing down, being still, and feeling the emotions within themselves. Meditation can help a great deal, but you have to set the foundation with the right lifestyle.
2. Show Up and Stay Committed
The late Dr. David Simon used to say that “commitment is walking through a door of change through which you never intend to return.” If there is anything that can derail your meditation practice, it is a lack of self-discipline. The meditation mindset requires that you decide on your path and you stay committed to it every minute of every day. This is not to say you have to meditate for hours upon hours every day and yet, the only way to be successful at something is to do it consistently.
Crisis meditating will not yield the results you seek. The results of meditation are cumulative, meaning they add up little by little. If you have a successful workout program, you know that the results you have seen did not happen overnight. On the contrary, if you’ve ever had an unsuccessful workout program—where you only hit the gym once every three months—you can attest that didn’t yield the results you were looking for. What you put your attention on grows stronger and what you take your attention away from withers. Commitment is key.
3. Have Intention and Purpose
Someone with a solid meditation mindset approaches his or her practice with intention and purpose. Maybe your intention is to slow down a bit and take a “time in” each day, or perhaps it’s to help you calm your mind and emotions so that you can feel more grounded and peaceful. It could be that your intention is to connect to a deeper aspect of yourself that you know is buried beneath all the sociological layers of a lifetime of conditioning—to find yourself.
Whatever your intention is for having a practice of meditation, you must approach it from a state of mindfulness and with purpose. Many of us at some point or another find ourselves seeking purpose—the purpose of life and our individual purpose for being here. When you tend to your practices purposefully, you remain grounded in your “why”—your reason for doing what you do.
4. Sit Still, Be Still
Sitting requires you to develop the mindset that it’s okay to sit still, to be still, and to do nothing. While that may be a shocking experience for many people who aren’t accustomed to—or comfortable with—just “being,” this is the way in which you practice. You might find it incredibly relaxing to allow yourself to simply be in the moment, to breathe and be present with yourself.
As you develop your practice, you are training your body and your mind in stillness. Plan on having experiences where your physical body feels fidgety, which may lead to thoughts like, “I can’t sit here any longer” or “I’m bored” or “I don’t want to do this any longer.” This becomes your training ground. These instances provide you with an opportunity to train your body-mind to unplug and connect to something other than your ever-busy conscious mind. Be patient with yourself as you cultivate your ability to sit in meditation and whatever you do, don’t fall prey to the thought that you can’t do it or that you’re not doing it right.
5. Practice Acceptance and Surrender
Another facet of developing a successful meditation practice is the concept of acceptance and surrender. As human beings, we spend a tremendous amount of energy trying to control everyday outcomes—how others think of us, completion of our never-ending to-do list, and ensuring that everything must go according to our plan. Not only is it exhausting, but when things don’t go our way, we lose control of our own emotional states, which causes us to work harder to correct things.
Acceptance and surrender—in your daily life and in your meditation practice—helps you to let go of attitudes and expectations. The benefit of accepting whatever you experience in meditation, whether thoughts, physical sensations, or emotions, is that you are no longer consumed by unnecessary judgments about yourself or your practice. When you allow yourself to surrender to whatever shows up, it becomes easier to shrug off anything that isn’t serving you.
6. Feel into Your Emotions
Fair warning: A consistent meditation practice opens you up to your unconscious mind and this can be challenging for some. The unconscious mind is where we store all our core values, memories, emotions, and beliefs. It is not uncommon to experience various emotions during meditation. This is a natural progression and isn’t anything to be feared.
Simply put, whatever emotions need to arise during meditation are because the unconscious mind is ready to bring them to the surface for resolution. In some cases, you may just need to breathe through whatever you are feeling in the moment. In other instances, you may receive some insight into how you need to resolve an issue that’s been creating conflict. Meditation often brings clarity, insight and solutions to problems you have been dealing with.
7. Create Your Sadhana
Sadhana is a Sanskrit word that means “a spiritual exertion toward an intended goal.” To create your Sadhana, consider what practices you would like to include in your daily routine that will support your meditation practice and write them down. Then, your duty is to perform them each day. Having a Sadhana will help you stay focused on your intention and purpose while honoring your commitment to be steadfast in achieving your ultimate spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical goals.
It’s worth mentioning that your Sadhana is sacred and should be treated as such. It is also your own and needn’t be compared to the practices of others. What works and feels meaningful to you is all that matters. Most spiritual teachings recommend that you nurture your practice by keeping both your progress and your practice to yourself. We have a tendency to compare and compete in today’s age so this is an opportunity for you to hold something close to your heart and soul, and to cherish it as being your own.
There are many paths, teachers, and techniques that all lead to the same place. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to find the right ones for you. If you’re new to meditation, you may want to start by exploring different meditation styles. Another thing to consider is that it can be of great value to learn meditation by a seasoned instructor with whom you resonate. Take your time in settling into your meditation mindset and your practice, carefully selecting the ingredients that ultimately set you up for success.
Jump start, or build onto, your personal meditation practice with like-minded individuals, Deepak, and other Chopra Center master educators at Seduction of Spirit. Learn More.